Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It's on, like Donkey Kong!

AIT, myself, Jason, Jack, and now Balthazar are in the thick of it now!

It's like WWE on blogs.

Ok, so in this episode, RO addresses syncretism, and some other stuff.

AIT, Jack, and Jason are in the more radical syncretism camp, and Balthazar and I are in the more purist camp when it comes to mixing traditions. The spectrum (in my opinion) goes something like this:

AIT posted that we should read the Western texts right alongside the Eastern texts to interpret one another, basically to "fill in the gaps of the Western Tradition." I'm paraphrasing. Jack uses Mudras from Franz Bardon when he reads the tarot (and you should also read the comments on Jack's post). Jason argues that we should drop the East West divide and say it's all magic, and embrace radical rational syncretism.* Balthazar calls him out on it and levels the charge of cultural appropriation. Then Gordon comes in swinging a folding steel chair! Oh wait, not yet. I'm getting ahead of the story.

Now I know these fellows, and I'm basing my placement of us on the scale on the things we've written over the years. Jack's the most chaos mage of all of us and would be further out than Jason towards the chaos end of the spectrum if I didn't also know he's a Traditional Witch too, and has written with respect for traditions' traditions. AIT would fall further on the purist side if he weren't Golden Dawn, and Jason would be further towards the Purist side if I only looked at his experiences with hands on transmission of spiritual empowerments. I would have thought Balthazar would fall more towards the chaos side of the spectrum because root doctoring itself is a syncretic system that took the things that worked from multiple systems and put them together as a complete thing.

As for me, I think I'm dead center, and in my ideal head, I might really be that way. But in my mind and heart, I lean towards traditionalism, getting everything out of a system from that system and don't dilute the potential by blending it all together.

The irony is that my system is pure Hermetics, ideally sucking the marrow from the 1st through 3rd century materials, but using the techniques of the Renaissance magicians who honed it and left us more detailed materials.

But what were those Hermetic materials that were honed? Greek, Hebrew, Persian, Egyptian, Christian, Gnostic, Neo-Platonic, Pagan... All crammed together in one empire that had magicians travelling, studying, and exchanging information in their version of the internet! It was a hotbed of syncretism. I'll do rites that include names of spirits from three or four cultures that can be interpreted in six completely different ways depending on which mystery cult you're coming from. My traditional tradition is a complete syncretic work. People like me from back then and there would have been horrified! Yet here I am arguing that it's a tradition of its own that should be adhered to...

Heh. I'm well aware of my hypocrisy.

I don't, however, feel it needs to be corrected. See, I think the 1st-3rd century stuff is the raw ore, and the Renaissance work was a refinement of that ore, and that there's a ton of shit to be gathered from the system as it is, if only it was more cohesively presented. I acknowledge the inputs from the East and Near East over the centuries, and I'm grateful for them. I believe, however, that it's at a point where the things that needed to be imported were imported, and it doesn't need anything else at this point. I'm fine with the neoplatonic hermetic tradition and all it has to offer me. I think it's a complete system. It tells a whole story of the advancement through ritual and initiation. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. If you do specific work, you get specific results, which enable further work, and that in turn provides specific other results, which enables further work, and so on up the chain of manifestation. It's like you mine the ore, smelt the pellets, purify it into steel, shape it into the tool, and then use the tool. Each phase has specific operations that get done to the material so it can become its final product.

I love the Hermetic path, and I've found that everything offered in other systems has a correlary in this system, it just has to be found and recognized. Everything your system can do, mine can do too, in other words. Nyah nyah.

But it's not about that. It's about getting to the goal. AIT calls it becoming an immortal, and I share the goal. I like it. I embrace it. All the steps are laid out here in the Hermetic stuff I do, where I'm at, and the addition of other things is, to me, a distraction. I'd rather specialize than generalize. Other systems with similar goals may help me understand the subject, if needed, but it wouldn't replace the methods I have at my disposal from my own tradition because I appreciate the harmony of what I've built so far, and I don't want to fuck it up. By keeping to the same bucket of practices that are labeled Hermetic, I've built up a momentum that I don't want to lose by including stuff I don't understand that requires something I might not have to get to a goal I might not share.

Now, Balthazar has implied that cultural appropriation and a sense of entitlement is a bad thing. I don't agree with him in this regard. I think we really are entitled to pursue our spiritual paths, that we are free to answer God's call on our life in whatever language or symbol set he calls to us from. No one has the right to stop another person from pursuing God as they feel called. We're all free to make commentary and air our opinions, but what's between you and God is between you and God. That's sacred. My opinion on your relationship with god matters not shit at all.**

That said, I'm strongly opposed to being rude and insensitive in your syncretization. You're royalty in the kingdom of God, but you don't have to act like a brat prince/princess. Jason appropriates tech from different systems with respect and sensitivity. He doesn't make any claims about his interpretation or use being better than the source he borrows from. He integrates and syncretizes rationally. He puts things together that match and align in harmony, not in a way that brings insult, or disharmony to himself or his students. He's careful about it.

Balthazar himself does much the same. After all, his blog name is Gnostic Conjure. It's syncretization at its finest, and I don't think he would object to Jason's actual practice of syncretization in the slightest, even though they may seem at odds this morning.

So for me the bottom line is if you want to syncretize, by all means do so, I recognize that it's perhaps the TRUEST traditional tradition there ever was. Personally, I'm fine for now with exploring where the Hermetic System takes me, and I don't need all that mudra mantra yantra stuff. So far I've found the spirits leading me to things that are similar enough in result and even the look/feel of other people's systems, but really it doesn't matter to me what your system does.

*By Rational syncretism, I mean to acknowledge that he's not a fucking idiot, and knows you don't put shit together that doesn't belong together in ignorance just because it looks cool.

** With the understanding that if you infringe upon my divine rights in the name of your relationship with God, I will kick your ass.


  1. The graphic that I refer to above was important, and I'll fix it later, but for now it has to be found at THIS LINK.

  2. "Heh. I'm well aware of my hypocrisy."

    I don´t think you are being hypocrite. In my experience, well knowledge practicants from different traditions usually agree in the big important stuff. For instance when a traditional astrologer talks with a chinese or indian astrologer, all the techniques are extremely different, but the "spirit" of the technique is usually the same. "Oh, I do something similar too". Of course, this doesn´t work for modern astrology! Too western new age!

    When the experts fail to agree, in my experience at least, usually is because they are using the same words to speak about different things.

    It is obvious that Balthazar is talking about the zeitgeist of our time and practicants, of lazy students who want quick fixes and a weekend course with a certificate. They go around in the big supermarket mixing cereals and systems.

    What Jason is answering is a completely different thing: that no system is pure. Yes, no system is pure, but that is not the point raised by Balthazar. If a yogi master talks with a Root worker, a Candomble Babalorisha and a Tibetan magic, my guess is that they will all find interesting tech to share, and this is a good point for cross cultural sharing.

    But this is hardly the same of the average western studying by internet that thinks that he is a master of any of those disciplines.

    Again, one is a comment on our current culture, other is an historical point that is actually answering a different question

    best regards

  3. Many of the traditions we follow today, Renaissance-style hermeticism, hoodoo, and others are a result of a syncretic approach.

    But like Balthazar, I have issues with appropriation. I find that there is a marked difference between a syncretic approach and appropriation.

    I addressed this in my own post, but I think that the ultimate difference is where one aims to learn and be informed through contact with other traditions, the other aims to steal and get away by being lazy.

  4. What matters is that you choose to do something -anything- and then follow it through, enduring until the end. That is the essence of the great work, and so saith the beast. Every want to be magician picks up, and puts down, a dozen "paradigms." They cite religious, social, or scientific incongruities (more honestly lack-of-coolness) as an excuse for giving up. Show me a wizard who has conjured consistently from The 21 Lessons of Merlin for 21 years, and I will call him a Master of Art.


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